B4Peace: Ideal self

It just so happens, my dears, that EBL’s birthday is in April. Some years ago I received a gift of a necklace with a rune on it for “hawthorn”, which is supposedly the April plant (despite being called “May” or “Mayflower” in modern English). I have no idea what the source of this claim might be and I don’t really care. I was dead chuffed, as we old folks say, with the hawthorn connection because I had also in my youth read Robert Graves and learned that the hawthorn is the symbol of the Goddess representing at various times of the year her different faces of maiden (pure white flowers), mother (luscious red berries) and crone (gnarled black branches during winter).

triple_goddess_symbol

We have a hawthorn in our garden and it is a joy to live with. The flowers are gorgeous, the berries attract hordes of greedy birds and the branches clutch the winter skies with thorny fingers demanding that Spring return and refusing to take No for an answer, refusing to give in to winter’s icy brutality.

What if my inner goddess was like that, pure, nourishing and unyielding? What if I was able to be like the hawthorn?

In this month’s Bloggers for Peace post Kozo asked that we imagine our ideal self and how we could make peace happen in the world.

This is the point where I should do a polite thing and mention triggers because this post is not about to be joyful. The more I thought about this prompt the more I struggled to find my ideal self. The more I thought, the more I realised that no matter what I do or how hard I try to be the positive me, the goddess, it will not work and underneath I am still the old, twisted, damaged and depressed self, and there is no end to it. So if reading about someone’s struggle with depression is difficult for you, please take this opportunity to find something more nourishing for your soul and shake the dust of this post from your virtual feet.

I’m not sure how moaning on about my depression will promote world peace except that through understanding someone’s experience, one among far too many, we might all learn to live together more healthily.

I’m not sure it will work, but I promised I would post for peace each month so here we go.

To meet this month’s challenge I tried to find ways in which there was some kind of inner goddess inside this rather pointless person. To retain the vestiges of convention I started with maiden. What kind of a girl was I and how could I bring her best qualities into my life? As a child I wanted to be good, and make my family happy. I suppose children do usually want that, at least initially. I was loved, there is no doubt, by my father and grandmother and various relations, although I was a huge disappointment to my mother and we never were really close. Yes, this is the mother who lives with me now, brain eaten by dementia. I have been caring for her and disappointing her for as long as I can remember and nothing changes. I no longer expect it to, of course, but sometimes I think it would have been nice to have had a good relationship. However, we did not connect for whatever reason. Overall, it leaves me painfully aware that I failed as a child.

Well, perhaps there is more luck to be had as Mother. After all I have four Offspring, so perhaps I did something right. I always wanted a large family and a country home with chickens, home-baked bread and possibly a vegetable plot. That was based on Enid Blyton stories and daydreams of roses over the door and being able to climb the Magic Faraway Tree during holidays.

Except I was a terrible mother. I had no role model to use except the unrealistic ones in books, magazines and films. I had post-natal depression very severely for several years and I went out to work while Sigoth stayed home and parented. He is great with children. It turns out I am not. We lived in an Edwardian terrace near London so I could get work. I worked ridiculous hours to earn enough to support the family, at one point holding down three jobs at once. I was exhausted and depressed and terrible with the children, and never had the time or energy to pay them attention. It’s a miracle they stlll talk to me, but then I expect they want to be good children too.

OK, EBL, some of us are late developers. Perhaps you will make a wonderful Crone. You are enjoying getting older after all.

It is true, this is the most positive period in my life, and I want to celebrate the accumulated wisdom and experience of my first half century. But when I look at what I can contribute I honestly see nothing. The best thing I can do is to go away and die so I am no longer harming anyone. That way I can decompose and give back some useful nutrients to the soil. Sorry if it sounds melodramatic; it is, of course. That does not make it invalid.

This is the sum of my wisdom. The ideal me is a dead me. The best I can do is no hurt. The best I can give my children are no demands.

To be clear, I don’t hate my life. I have a job I enjoy, a partner who is practically perfect, children I adore, friends, a social life, a supportive community, enough income for my needs, a home I love. I am very fortunate. There is the odd event which causes distress, as in everyone’s life, but nothing unusual. I don’t want to change anything. I just don’t want to live. I feel no serious connection with the world and so no attachment to it (not in a good Buddhist sense though). I simply don’t have anything to live for. I have felt this way since childhood.

People think depression is caused by a thing, an event or a circumstance. It may be so for some people. Not for me. This is simply the way I am and there is no discernible reason. I am just a defective human.

I believe in good things like love and peace and happiness, but they are not for me. I cannot describe the best thing that happened to me today or this week or in my life, because none did. Or rather, they did happen but I don’t remember, like a dream that fades as your eyelids creak open in the morning.

I thought I was getting past this, but apparently not quite. I am not so distressed or perturbed as I used to be, but nothing has filled the gap left by those destructive feelings. There is just a big hollow. It’s not actually unpleasant but it isn’t as if it has been replaced by unicorns and rainbows. Looks like I missed the boat on those. It is an improvement I suppose. I won’t be distressing Sigoth or frightening the children by sitting in my chair crying and rocking for hours on end any more. That’s good. Perhaps that is the best I can be, and if so, then I shall hope it continues until I attain perfection in the way that is inevitable, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Elsewhere shining lights burn more brightly than mine. Other bloggers for peace include:

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/03/31/monthly-peace-challenge-woman-in-the-mirror/

http://sarahneeve.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/april-b4peace-post-my-portrait/

http://klamiot.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/woman-in-the-mirror-i-wish/

This post also contributes to the Mental Health Awareness Blogging Project.

Namaste.

 

All My Loving

Lots of people seem to be participating in contests lately so I thought I would join in, But with so many options, which to choose?

Over at the marvellous Knocked Over By A Feather there was the contest beyond ll contests: write a blog based on one of the following Beatles songs:.

All My Loving

Day Tripper

Helter Skelter

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

This gets me back to basics – nostalgia. I used to do it better in the old days but such is life. Also Sigoth and I are both Beatles fans. Partly because I remember running around the playground yelling about yellow submarines, and partly because it is the Law.

This is therefore going to be an appropriate story of days of old. It includes life and death struggle, serial killers, fashion, drinking, music and twue twue wuv. It’s about how I met Sigoth, and it’s going to get soppy.

Picture the scene if you will; indeed, if you continue to read, it is a prerequisite.

It is 1980 in Leeds, a city n West Yorkshire with a long and noble history dating back to the medieval wool trade and earlier. That’s about all the wool you will get, but some of us are keen knitters so it had to be mentioned.

As I say, Leeds in 1980. It is October, cold and dark, and the beginning of a new academic year, bringing new and anxious students to university for the first time. They are to be ritually immersed in a proud educational establishment through the medium of Freshers’ Week. I am not sure if this happens elsewhere in the world, but the beginning of term has a pre-study week for new students to help them find their way around, meet new friends, sign up for societies (such as sports, music, politics, issues or general leisure activities), and get very drunk in the company of relative strangers. Somewhere in this heady mix you also pick up your course timetable and possibly start looking for text books.

Hall in snow

I was living a few miles out of town with a bunch of women in a single sex hall of residence. It is no longer part of the university but at the time it was a great old Victorian lodge which housed about 20 female students. We pretty much all got along very well from the first, and soon were meeting up for sandwiches and introducing each other to new people we had met along the way. In that first week I came across a boy called Sigoth who was in one of the societies a girl from my hall had joined. He looked a bit bemused by everything but gamely tagged along with the raucous mob.

Over the next week I ran into him a couple of times and we nodded to each other and went our separate ways. Then as the courses started picking up I found myself doing lab work on Wednesday afternoons, and regularly caught the same bus back to hall with him as he was doing different labs at the same time, and his hall was on the same bus route. We nodded a bit more but didn’t sit together. We were acquaintances only. I felt sorry for him in the same way I felt sorry for me doing labs late into the afternoon while everyone else was at home drinking hot chocolate and listening to music. He looked cold and sad in the gloom and mist and damp of a November evening.

That winter term was an eventful one in many ways. Firstly we were in the grip of a nightmare known as the Yorkshire Ripper. Although he was eventually caught, at the time he was still very much on the prowl. It was frightening enough arriving in Leeds, away from home for the first time, to be confronted by posters everywhere warning me to look out for a great big old actual murderer. Then a girl was killed just outside the flat where some friends of mine lived. Her body was found by a boy I was going out with (to be clear I wasn’t with him at the time – he lived in those flats too). Initially we were worried a student had been killed; then the police confirmed it was the Ripper and all hell broke loose. At the same time a man started hanging around our hall, and climbing on the roof at nights. The police said he was just after lead, but how to be sure?

I remember you always knew who the journalists were because they were the only ones prepared to be out on their own. The rest of us travelled in packs at all times.

By the end of term tensions were running high. The news was full of shootings: first the Pope and then John Lennon. (Well done, EBL, you’ve got a Beatles reference in at last!)

I had been feeling unwell with a virus caught inevitably from mixing with strangers from all across the country. Students are particularly sickly at this stage. However, it was so bad my room-mate called the doctor and she decided it was meningitis and whisked me off to the Infectious Diseases Unit at Seacroft Hospital. I stayed there five days and was given 2 paracetamol. They took a sample of spinal fluid and decided I was just a whinging student. John Lennon was shot the day I was sent home.

Bad Taste Party

It just so happened that the day I did get home, the rest of the Hall were having a Bad Taste Party. I stepped out of the taxi into a joyous scene, hugs and shrieks of welcome, alcohol in abundance and loud music. The party involved dressing up in anything that was considered bad taste – in my case I just stayed in my horrible dressing gown; others came as John Lennon or Mark Chapman. What jolly japes!

Naturally I had too much cheap booze and then discovered Sigoth also weaving unsteadily along the hallway to the kitchen. We sat down and started talking, mainly about John Lennon and life, the universe and everything. To be honest I can’t really remember what we talked about (apart from John Lennon, because that was all anyone talked about that evening) but it was deep and meaningful because we were tipsy. We spent the night together, and in the morning Sigoth found my guitar in the corner and started to play Beatles songs on it. He knew loads of them; he even sang me “Dear Prudence” but substituted my name instead. It was gloriously romantic for a shy, innocent 18 year old. (That was me, in case you are wondering.)

And ever since, to tie in with KOBAF’s contest, because apparently there are rules and stuff, he has had all my loving: when we were apart during university vacations; when we each went off to gatherings and trips without the other; when work or illness or external crises separated us; and every day we wake up together too.

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
Tomorrow I’ll miss you
Remember I’ll always be true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you

I’ll pretend that I’m kissing
The lips I am missing
And hope that my dreams will come true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you

All my loving I will send to you
All my loving, darling I’ll be true

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
Tomorrow I’ll miss you
Remember I’ll always be true
And then while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving to you

All my loving I will send to you
All my loving, darling I’ll be true
All my loving, all my loving ooh
All my loving I will send to you,

Every day I am grateful for my luck.

Namaste

the-princess-bride

twue wuv

H is for Honesty

In my ongoing mission to complete the Quaker Alphabet Blog Project in 2014 today I bring to you Honesty.

800px-Lunaria_annua_flowers

There is an old joke in Quaker circles that you always find Honesty in a Quaker garden. Give us a break – we’re not professional gag writers for the most part.

However, one of the attractions, and possibly also scary bits, of being a member of our small but beautifully-formed community is that we try to speak honestly in all our dealings. Naturally we aren’t always good at it, and tie ourselves in knots trying to avoid being hurtful while keeping to the truth. A recent meeting was a good example.

I have mentioned in previous posts on this project that it can be quite demanding being a Friend, because there are so few people and so much work including managing our crumbling meeting houses, conforming to charity law and simply maintaining the day-to-day business of our worshipping groups. There are so many things to do that we have a rather esoteric process called “Nominations”. There is a committee, naturally, whose job it is to find people to do other jobs, from treasurer to conference goer. [As an “interesting” side note there are also Nominations Committees to appoint people to Nominations Committee and, in our geographical Area at least, a Search Group to find people to serve on Elders and Overseers, separate from the Nominations Committee, whom you might expect to be asked to do that. As it is, Area Nominations Committee has to find over 60 names a year to do all the things we want to do so the Search Group is intended to spread the load.]

Yesterday was Area Meeting, the time when we get together with folks from all the local worshipping groups in our geographical Area, to share, learn, celebrate and even do business. One of the items of business was Nominations, and how we can improve the process so it is clear to everyone. The current committee had asked us to think about treating their recommendations more thoughtfully, rather than rubber-stamping them, and to be ready to discuss a person’s suitability for a role.

Well, that was all well and good when we wanted to hear about how wonderful each other are. How many skills, how much experience, how long-standing and dedicated a commitment. But what about when someone felt obliged to stand up and say those fateful words “that name would not have occurred to me”? This dread phrase, or something like it, is the equivalent of “Good grief! Are you barking? You can’t let Gladys do Catering, not after the incident last year which resulted in several hospitalisations for listeria-induced comas and food poisoning!” Worse yet, the name may be for something even more sensitive than catering, such as Children’s arrangements or Safeguarding or Finance and Property.

Quakers seek to find the best in everyone, to recognise the Light within, and to accept the whole person, but we aren’t stupid. We also practise tough love and will face up to behaviours and actions which are hurtful, and will hold the person to account in a loving and supportive way. At least, at our best we do and the rest of the time we try to do so. It’s a thing I like, even though I like it a bit less when I am the recipient of that tough love. After a while I get over it and am grateful someone was caring and brave enough to tell me.

As a result we may have people among us whom you would never put in charge of certain functions, such as children or money, while still loving them as cherished members of the community. You might put the embezzler on Children’s Committee so long as they didn’t manage the budget for wax crayons and glitter sticks, but you would do it knowingly.

Here’s the rub. How much of a discussion should be expected in an open forum about why the worried Friend has stood up and uttered this phrase? You have to be sure and you have to be quite brave to do it; but you also have to be justified.

We want to be honest and open. We need to know if there is a reason someone should not be appointed, but only one or two people may be aware of that reason. In a meeting I used to belong to last century we had a rule that you could only be invited to help with children, not volunteer. It seemed best to introduce a rule before there was any issue about suitability, rather than make it up on the hoof. It didn’t stop anyone making known their willingness to help out, but it did give peace of mind to all concerned in a large group where not everyone knew everyone else well.

Back to our Area Meeting then. We sat and thought about it for quite some time, trying to discern the right way forward. We wanted to be able to raise concerns but there was a balance required between confidentiality and transparency.

I’m not saying we are geniuses in settling this old debate. In fact we fudged it quite a bit and agreed we would not expect to go into detail but would discuss the issue between the person raising it and the Nominations Committee. If the objection was over-ruled it would come back to next Area Meeting, unless there was a time constraint in which case the committee could make the decision. It’s a bit fuzzy. People may still be upset. We are in danger of making the process slower and more complex than necessary. For me the important thing is we faced up to it and talked it over and generally tried to work out what love required of us.

I think we were honest because we recognised that we need to be able to say that a candidate for a job is not right in a safe and supportive way. We need to be able to be able to have and deal with disagreements. We need to be honest about decisions and not just take the easiest path in the name of not hurting feelings. By setting an expectation that our decisions are not automatic, that we take them seriously, and that we will welcome challenges, we make honesty the norm.

I am reminded of a cartoon I saw recently, probably a meme. It was about someone being interviewed.

“Tell us what you think is your worst quality,” said the interviewer.

“Honesty.”

“I don’t think that’s a negative quality!”

“Honestly, I don’t care what you think.”

Namaste.

B4Peace: Once upon a time in TV land

Welcome once more to the Chronicles of the Young EBL. Today I am responding to the monthly Bloggers for Peace prompt set by Kozo over at everydaygurus.com. Kozo has asked me, personally, to explain what influenced me as a child to become the kind of person who posts for Peace. Feel free to join in. It doesn’t cost anything and contributes to the greater sum of human happiness.

Let’s focus on children. How can we teach children to prioritize peace? How did you experience peace as a child? What in your upbringing made you a Blogger for Peace?

Well, my dears, I have been thinking and thinking about that last sentence for a few days, and now I have thunk I am here to share it with you. Come with me back to the wondrous world of the 1960s.

I was not a particularly pacific child. I got into fights and scrapes more often than a Sixties girl was supposed to; we were all sugar and spice back then, and that meant fighting was for boys. Boys were slugs and snails and puppy dog tails.

I had some friends who were boys, because I am subversive like that. The twins down the road, a son of my mother’s friend, a couple of boys from school who were not too fussy about gender if you genuinely liked Dr Who, and so on. Often we ran about the parks in packs and I had no idea who half the children were. It didn’t matter. We were a gang for the day, catching stickleback in the stream or throwing sticks into the chestnut trees to get the conkers down.

Idyllic, eh? Well, it was pretty sweet. I didn’t have a traumatic childhood apart form minor hurts and crises, and I am thankful for it.

So when a boy did try picking on me in the playground I felt quite entitled to punch him hard and then tell teacher. As I said, not very pacific.

My Dad had served in the army towards the end of the Second World War and in Germany in 1946. He had lots of happy memories of friends and people he met. He even wanted to marry a German girl but that was never going to be allowed. Otherwise I would now be something like Die Elektronischetaschefrau. Actually that sounds quite good…

Leider habe ich zu viel vergessen, auf Deutsch zu schreiben.

Now then, get back to the purpose of this post, EBL. Keep on track!

While I was living the dream paddling in the stony waters of the park, or picking leeches off my legs when I ventured into the mud, or skinning knees and elbows climbing the trees, or breaking my ankle trying to roller skate; while all this was going on other influences were at work for the very possession of my heart and soul. How very sinister that sounds! In fact, it was no more than normal socialisation.

My parents were prone to the casual prejudices of white English people, but also were fair and helpful and kind to individuals they met without being particularity interested in how those other people looked or acted. So I played with the children avoided by others, such as Elizabeth, who was black, or Cindy who had Downs Syndrome, or Nick, who was a very bright boy my age in a baby-sized body, or Lee, who had cerebral palsy. There were quite a few children about who were the survivors of thalidomide, but I didn’t know any personally. So I just thought everyone was a real person.

Then there was Sunday School. Initially my mother sent me to the local High Anglican church where I coloured in and recited the Ten Commandments. At that stage I took things literally, so “thou shalt not kill” meant just that, at least for humans. After I was too old for colouring in, I found the big church too scary on my own, with the high roof and smelly incense and lots of adults I didn’t know. My family didn’t go to church; my mother sent me on my own because she thought it would be good for me.

After I refused to go any more, my friend’s mother took me to their church, a fundamentalist Baptist congregation with a sliding floor over the pool for full immersion baptism. I thought that was very exciting, but eventually was thrown out of that Sunday School because I asked too many questions about science and cosmology. Still, I did learn that God was Love, even if some adults weren’t.

Those early explorations into religion would not be the main foundation for a later commitment to pacifism though, only an initial blueprint. No, the final keystone of the whole edifice came through the miracle of television.

The daily routine in our house was for me to watch children’s television until the Magic Roundabout had finished, and Zebedee had boinged the youngest children off to bed, and then for my parents and grandmother to settle down in front of the evening news. The television was left on for this while we ate tea, so as I chomped my way through cheese sandwiches and a slice of cake, and slurped down a cup of tea, I watched what was happening in the world. Mostly it was boring and incomprehensible. There were men talking in long words, and sometimes shouting, and occasionally there seemed to be a lot of concern about long haired people who liked grass. It was quite confusing.

my_lai_massacre

http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2013/06/when-the-war-criminal-is-one-of-us/
I don’t think it was My Lai that I saw, but it was similar

One day there were bodies.

I’m sure there were bodies other days, but this must have been a particularly traumatic massacre. My mother turned the television off in a hurry but not before I saw rows of people lying in the dirt street somewhere foreign. My grandmother was crying a bit, and my parents were very hushed.

I knew, with a real sense of freezing clarity, that those people were real-dead, not pretend-dead like Cowboys and Indians, or Daleks. They weren’t going to get up and walk away once the cameras stopped. They were never going to get up and walk away. Never. Some other men had come with helicopters or tanks or jeeps, and killed them. They were just people, children like me, old ladies like grandma. Dead.

It was wrong.

And that was it. A moment in time when I simply knew it was wrong to kill people. A black and white, no nonsense, don’t even try to argue moment.

Nowadays I might think about justification for conscientious objection because apparently some people do not see this obvious truth. For me, there is no need for argument. It’s not about who has the best words or most unassailable logic. It’s about not killing people, because there is no way back from that, and dead is dead without distinction of good or bad. You don’t get different kinds of dead. There are no more chances, or room for error, or time to say sorry, or hope for a better tomorrow. One day we will all be dead. There’s no need to rush. I knew it then, in the way a young child can be certain and an adult can’t. I know it now, in the same way.

I don’t even know who those people were, or where, or when, least of all why. It would have been late Sixties, but probably not early Seventies, because I was quite small. I suspect it was Vietnam but can’t be sure.

In my cynical teenage phase I watched M*A*S*H and cemented my resolve. Killing people is wrong.

I conclude, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that television can be the conscience of us all, and now perhaps Face-twit and Tweet-book as well. Even, dare we hope it, blogging. You know what, if we all blogged about why killing people is wrong we could start some kind of Online Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement…..

Why Kozo – you clever, clever man!

Other bloggers who have cottoned on to this idea include:

http://sarahneeve.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/march-b4peace-post-a-peaceful-resolution/

http://peacegarret.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/a-peace-lesson-for-children-from-a-nazi

http://klamiot.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/peacemusic

http://janetkwest.com/2014/03/05/dad-the-faithful

and of course, Kozo’s original post

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/03/03/monthly-peace-challenge-peace-child/

Namaste

G is for Gathering

I don’t know about you, but I love the Highlander film (well, the first one anyway). It features hilariously unrecontructed macho posturing, pretty scenery, Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert, sword fighting action, ridiculous beheadings and music by Queen, leaving little if any room for a plot. That is my kind of film for a Saturday night! 

But EBL, the title of this post implies that it forms part of the Quaker Alphabet series! What have these things to do with quiet English people wearing odd hats and grey clothes? Or bleeding heart liberal tree-hugging hippies like yourself?

Well my dears, I’m glad you asked. It’s because there is some Quaker jargon which overlaps rather with the film itself, with amusing (although hardly hilarious, I’m sorry to say) consequences. It means that as a Highlander fan I have to try quite hard not to snort out loud when the phrase is perpetrated in a Quaker context.

The film refers repeatedly to the Gathering, the time when all the immortals come together and fight it out until only one is left. In my head this equates verbally with Quaker name for the sense of a meeting for worship in which the participants reach a sense of spiritual unity as part of their worship. No beheadings are enacted and no Quakers are harmed during this experience. In fact the opposite of the film’s Gathering is in fact the case. We are gathered and united by something greater than ourselves, rather than competing viciously and terminally for supremacy.

That’s more likely to happen over tea if insufficient biscuits have been provided, although in more genteel fashion than Messrs Lambert and Connery.

PresenceintheMidst

The Presence in the Midst, by J Doyle Penrose, 1916
Yes, we do still dress like this and yes,we are really Amish, and yes, it is true that Quakers never lie

The sense of a gathered meeting is really quite special and will not always happen in every meeting. In fact, it may not happen too often at all. However, it did occur in a recent meeting for worship in our little group, and it was a wonderful thing.

One minute you are sitting there, enjoying the peace and quiet, thinking about what to have for lunch, listening to the companionable rumble of stomachs nearby, and generally floating along without a care in the world. Or perhaps you are pondering deep and intellectual matters, perhaps you heard a news headline that was particularly troubling, or you are holding a friend in the Light by wishing them peace and strength and courage to face a problem you know they are encountering. You may be reviewing a conversation at work or watching the clouds scud past the high windows.

Then suddenly you are swept up into a sensation which I am struggling to find words to describe. It’s a little like those moments of transcendence described by the likes of Rogers or Maslow, but it happens within a group rather than to a lone individual. A term often used is “covering” and indeed it can feel like being swaddled or embraced or simply netted up like a fish. You are not alone; others in the group are there with you, and together you are in the presence of something greater than you as an individual. For a time, indeterminate and endless yet indescribably brief, you are stardust, golden. Without doubt it is a mystical experience, and is better described by Thomas Kelly, an American Quaker writer.

What I can tell you is that while I was there, no thoughts of allegedly immortal Scottish swordsmen crossed my mind. It was far more important than that.

Today I share my gratitude for that time with you.

Namaste.

 

E is for Expectations

Some letters of the alphabet are greedy aren’t they? I can think of so many entries in this alphabet project for E that I am entirely exhausted. I do keep coming back to this one though, so I am going to choose it as my second E entry.

Beware-Expectations-on

Expectations.

Well, Charles Dickens wrote a book on them, didn’t he? This is not going to be about escaped convicts in marshes, or deranged brides. It’s disappointing, I know, but Charlie did those better than I could. This post is going to be about the expectation of being a Quaker, or at least, my two penn’orth on the subject.

It was as I settled into meeting for worship last Sunday that I realised I get a little jolt every time I sit down in a Quaker meeting. The reason for that is because we are there to try to find our way together and actually no one can be quite sure what will happen. We sit in quiet expectation of hearing an inner voice guiding us. One moment you may be thinking of those around you and those absent, or of snowdrops and catkins and early spring sunshine, or what to make for dinner that evening. The next you are propelled into a stream of refugees escaping Homs, or to Death Row, or to supporting the family of a teenager who has killed themselves, or the excitement of a new gransparent quivering with the possibilities of a new life. Meeting can be an adventure, a trauma or a celebration and occasionally all of those things and more in one hour.

Meeting can also be subversive. It can be as dull as dishwater. It can be joyful. It can be cold. So my expectations of it are a little like a child on Christmas Eve, hoping for a miracle, and not sure whether I’ll receive a puppy or a magic ring or my third copy of “The Wind in the Willows” or an umbrella (I was only nine – an umbrella? What was she thinking?). Perhaps socks and knickers from M&S.

So there you have it: expectation and a little frisson of uncertainty. Eternal possibilities.

Last Sunday it occurred to me that as well as the holding of meeting there are expectations on the people present. It wasn’t a very original thought but I became aware that people at meeting view me very differently from colleagues at work. I behave differently too.

When I left home and went to university I was absolutely certain I did not want my former school friends to mix very much with my new university friends. The reason it was going to be difficult was because I had tried to reinvent myself a little, and I acted differently as a result. I wasn’t being deceitful; I was just experimenting with different parts of my personality. I was seizing the day. Once I had the new bits in place and felt comfortable, like a new pair of shoes worn in, I was perfectly happy to mix both groups together.

I’m at the gawky stage with meeting. The keeping things separate stage. The trying out stage.

When I’m at work everyone knows I am a miserable, irritable, but successful project manager. I may get a little terse and not do human very well, but I know how to plan, organise and deliver application developments, and I do it very well. Just don’t expect me to remember your birthday or compliment you on your hair or ask about your son’s exam results.

At meeting it’s different. People think I am supportive and thoughtful, a little reserved but basically fairly kind. I am still good at getting things done, but I do it differently. The reason I do it differently, I realised, is because everyone around me seems to expect me to do it differently. They hadn’t decided to make assumptions about me based on stereotypes of IT professionals for example. At work I am often told what “you techies” are like. This is despite the fact I do not conform to many (if any) of those perceptions.

Meanwhile at meeting I am a Quaker with some years of experience behind me. Therefore I am seen as supportive, helpful and thoughtful. I am credited with tact and diplomacy in a way that would frankly astonish my co-workers. I am viewed as having insights and contributions which are creative and positive rather than technical and process-driven.

I don’t think I am doing anything very different. I think much of it is because of the expectations of those around me that I am told I am good at apparently very different things. But the result is that I am starting to change my approach a little. I am seizing another day.

Way back in 1968 Rosenthal and Jacobsen carried out a study into the effects of teacher expectation on children. When teachers were told that certain (randomly selected) children were actually “late bloomers” who would improve over the school year, it was shown that those children did improve significantly. I won’t bore you with all the studies and arguments back and forth since then, but essentially the phenomenon of teacher expectation was recognised. It applies in other areas of our lives, at work and at play as well as in the classroom.

Quakers believe in “that of God in everyone” – you can use your own definition of God here. Essentially they expect the best of people and for myself they are bringing out perhaps the better parts of me. I have been away from meeting for a few years as family life took over, but when we attended regularly I was a kinder person on the whole at work as well as at meeting. As I rediscover that person again, the fluffier softer EBL if you will, I remember how to behave in more positive ways while still achieving the targets being set by management.

Most importantly perhaps I start to expect it of myself again. I start to expect love.

And if my meeting can affect me, perhaps I can go out and affect those around me in other situations. Good grief – it could become a Movement!

So how about you? Do you find yourself behaving differently in response to the expectations of those around you? Or am I just a candle in the wind?

Namaste

 

Grateful

Well, this is certainly a departure. I know, I know. EBL is hardly known for her humility or tendency to appreciate the small kindnesses and glimpses of fragile beauty that surround her. However, as usual, it has been a week of events, and for once I am in the mood for some gratitude.

Yesterday and today, that is to say Stormday and Aftermathday, I travelled up and down and round about Yorkshire by rail. At least, I went to Sheffield and Leeds, which is a reasonable approximation. Naturally as my first two days of travelling since my operation it seemed only sensible to do this at the worst possible time when the national rail network was still reeling form the frankly bracing weather which we have been enjoying recently.

All my trains were on time, except one which was almost 10 minutes late. That was the one from Scotland, so perhaps it can be excused. So I couldn’t complain. Literally, I couldn’t. I felt cheated. The breakfast news team, whom I trust with my life, had lead me to expect more trauma and my loins were seriously girt.

Nevertheless, two days in a row of hurtling in slow motion along railway tracks while it variously blew, buffeted, rained, snowed and shone outside left me a little weary. The irony is that York is not currently flooded, although there may be some minor seepage. However the rest of the country appears to be submerging slowly and gracelessly under the ocean. Honestly, all the movies about Atlantis sinking implied it would happen more quickly and with considerably more men in leather kilts and sandals dashing about. Again, cheated.

Of course I am genuinely grateful not to be flooded. We had that here some years back and it was appalling. However, the English can’t face disaster with anything other than a self-deprecating quip, unless it’s with a broken beer bottle and a Spartan “come on if you think you’re hard enough” face. I find the quip less exhausting, but don’t push me.

By the time I was on the final leg of my journey home tonight I needed to relax a little. I was tense from a tiring couple of days and a distressing work issue. In a moment of weakness I opted for some relaxation music which I keep on my phone for just such an occasion. I played the very nice music and took some deep breaths and stared out of the window at the scenery.

The Derwent has burst its banks along much of the way, and was muddy and bubbly with the effect of fast flowing water charging down to join the Ouse, like a toddler on a sugar rush. It’s a perverse river in that it rises in the Moors, flirts with the coast briefly then heads inland in defiance of riverly custom and best practice. During snow melt and heavy rain it gets deep and fast and strong, and very brown from mud and silt and Moors run-off. Today the brown water and the muddy fields and winter-bare trees combined into a pleasing palate of neutrals set against a pinkish evening sky. It has been observed, I believe by Stephen Fry, but am too lazy to check, that nature is incapable of being ugly. Even in this time of horrible flooding the scenery is beautiful – except for the man-made parts. Nature, I concluded, even in times of flood and fear and raw sewage on your carpet, was awe-ful in the original sense of the word: powerful, frightening and still majestically and cosmically gorgeous. If something is going to destroy your words it is only right that it is epic.

The music played through the head-set like a soundtrack to my own personal movie. It set the scene for some inner dialogue and reflection, and I obliged, trained up by years of film watching and exposure to the tropes and truisms of Hollywood (and more lately Studio Ghibli). The music and the landscape made me feel grateful for being able to live in such a marvellous world. I was seduced into gratitude for not being flooded, for living somewhere so clearly superior to the rest of the planet, for having a safe journey to a warm home and loving partner, for just, well, everything.

I even started a list. I know some of you keep gratitude journals and I’m sure it is a worthwhile thing to do. Whenever I try the list is the same day after day: Sigoth, Offspringses, work colleagues, a job I enjoy nine days out of ten (because there are always some occasions when people are simply disappointing). The list may have the odd additional entry, such as Netflix or tea in bed or whatever ephemera have pleased me that day. Yet the core remains the same, my foundation for living, and I don’t need a journal to remind me of it. I know I’m blessed, even if I sometimes forget for an hour or two. Even if sometimes I get impatient with Sigoth or irritated by a colleague, just as allegedly Sigoth is driven to distraction by my quaint and endearing eccentricities (not nearly as infuriating as his faults of course). In my heart of hearts, I know.

At this point I feel it highly appropriate to refer my honourable friends to the beat poem, Storm, by Tim Minchin. I love Tim Minchin (not in a creepy way). He is a Dawkins kind of a chap, and the poem is a paean to rational and scientific wonder. No hocus pocus, just honest glory in the natural world.

Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
If you’re so into Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet… is just fucking silly”
Or something like that.

http://www.releaselyrics.com/1187/tim-minchin-storm/

If the very nice relaxing hippy music doesn’t soothe my troubled mind, then a dose of Minchin does.

Meanwhile I’m off to get into pyjamas and shake off this unfamiliar and bizarre gratitude. What is the world coming to? I’ll be turning into a nice little old lady at this rate and I can’t allow that. (Actually there’s no real danger of that happening. Don’t worry.)

Do you have your core list, your foundations, that keep you going through thick and thin? Hold them fast and share them if you will.

Namaste.

 

Lines in the sand

I was watching one of those clichéd movie moments the other night instead of doing something productive. It was the moment when the hero says something similar to “That’s a line I will not cross!”. Usually there is dramatic body language attached, including miming drawing a line, presumably in mimed sand.

nooooooo

I recently discovered within myself a steely core of resistance in another area. In retrospect it was not really surprising but I was a little taken aback at the time.

It involved tea.

There is no doubt that clichés are popular because they resonate within us, and highlight something we all recognise. In this case, we all have limits to what we are prepared to do. Milgram’s infamous experiments purported to demonstrate that people can be pushed further if someone in a white coat and with an air of authority is doing the pushing. Whatever the validity of the findings it is true that authority figures can push us along, and potentially arguable that that is how organised religion gets away with so much. Let’s not go there today though.

The reason I am musing on this cliché is that I know I have my own limits. In some cases these are reflected in the charities I choose to support; for example, I prefer to donate to mental health charities rather than donkey sanctuaries, or overseas aid rather than diabetes. All of them are important but I have to prioritise. I will still put a few quid in any of those tins if shaken at me, or if someone is jumping from a helicopter, or whatever. I am just more likely to put additional time or effort into some of them, although sometimes it’s about what skills I have to offer or location and timing. I trust that other people prioritise differently and we all balance out.

I am a signed up professional so I adhere to a code of conduct. This means there are lines at work I will not cross either, and I have had occasion a couple of times in my career to have to stand firm. It has worked. People aren’t evil or stupid on the whole.

Back to the Tea Incident then.

I recently had surgery on both shoulders and as a result when I woke up from the anaesthetic I was severely restricted in movement. The nurses bustled about me and made me feel cocooned in a warm fuzzy glow. They brought me a glass of water with a straw because I couldn’t lift anything. I sucked it gratefully.

This was an English hospital, perhaps more importantly a Yorkshire hospital, so naturally the next question was not “how are you feeling?” but “would you like a cup of tea?”.

I indicated that I would. In fact I actually croaked out “Oh God! Yes!” and hoped it didn’t sound too desperate or needy.

Yorkshire tea

The tea lady checked how I took it (strong, dark and handsome, if you must know), and returned with a mug of the beautiful brew. A mug, I repeat, because this is the home of right and proper tea drinking. God bless Yorkshire and the NHS.

There was only one small blemish on the tea horizon. She had put a straw in it.

“You can’t lift that,” she said. “So I put the straw in.”

“I’m not having tea through a straw,” I thought. I said it out loud too.

I reached forward through gritted teeth to lift the mug of hot, steaming liquid.

The tea lady sucked in her breath audibly.

The other patients all froze, eyes glued to my bed, like a group of medicalised meerkats.

Somewhere the orchestra played tense music at the rate of a rapidly beating heart.

The nurse at the next bed went into one of those slow motion dives across the room, hand outstretched, crying out “Noooooooooooooooooo!” as my arm wobbled and I winced with the pain.

Well really.

Of course I didn’t spill it. It was tea. You don’t waste tea. It tasted wonderful.

As they say round here, even my dog wears boots.

What are the lines you won’t cross, great or small? What are the risks you will take?

Namaste.

B4Peace: Family

I am continuing to participate in the monthly Bloggers for Peace series which is the brain child of the the lovely Kozo. I say “lovely”, but he’s pushing his luck this month, because Kozo has asked for posts about family. To be precise, making peace with family. You know, the people who messed you up, broke your heart or mind or body, who know the buttons to press or the words to use.

This month, I want you to focus on your family. Is there anyone you don’t fully embrace in your family? Do you feel resentment, shame, or anger towards someone blood-related?

Yep, I went there. Let’s deal with it. This months challenge is to make peace in yourself with someone close to you.

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/02/03/monthly-peace-challenge-we-are-family/

Well now.

I have been thinking about this and struggling to know what to say.

My family is not particularly traumatic. I am blessed. I had a reasonably happy childhood. If anything, my family is in fact more notable by its lacks. It is not large. In general it is not fond or close or very emotional. (To be clear, when I say “family” here in this post I am referring to my ancestry, as it were, and not to Sigoth or the Offspringses.)

I am an only child. My mother was an only child. My father had brothers (living) and a sister (died as a child). I grew up knowing I was loved in general. We didn’t see many relatives except aunt, uncle and cousin (also an only child). Half the family was abroad so we hardly ever saw them at all. I was the only girl and younger than my English cousin by more than 12 years. We had nothing in common.

We never talked about family. I was intrigued to know more about the shadowy relations occasionally mentioned, but then hidden again. Pretty much anything I heard was about family arguments and disagreements. Generally speaking my family has a poor track record at living peacefully. Perhaps it’s not surprising that they didn’t keep in touch with one another. They were too tired and worn and poor.

I remember very clearly, when I complained about having to visit my aunt and uncle, what dad told me: that it didn’t matter if you liked your family or not. You had to do your duty.

My mother’s view was different and more unsettling to my child self. She always said that because her parents had argued so much she would never inflict that on me. If she and dad didn’t get along, she would leave. She didn’t believe in staying together for the sake of the children.

It’s not a loving environment, is it? We didn’t have rows or thrown china or slammed doors. That was too dangerous. We just had duty and the possibility of leaving or being left.

Once I was older I had a chance to start doing family tree research. My own family wouldn’t tell me much about the photos we did have, but the documents have told some tales and sometimes I have teased out more from my mother in years gone by, none of it reliable but sometimes indicative.

My maternal grandfather lost his mother when he was a toddler; she died giving birth to a brother who also died. Granddad was sent away to live with his maternal grandfather until he was about five. He wasn’t wanted there. His grandfather wouldn’t speak to him; I’m assuming the reminder of his dead daughter was unwelcome. When he came home there was a stepmother and things didn’t go well. On censuses he is variously with his grandfather, his aunt and then on his own. He left home when he was seventeen and went to London. His own marriage, as my mother explained, was disastrous. My mother not only had to survive the Blitz in the East End but then had her parents break up and live separately until her mother died in her arms a few days before her 15th birthday. She moved back with her father and again a disastrous stepmother was introduced. She left home when she met my father and my grandmother found her a place to live with a neighbour.

My father had a better time of it, but his own father was brought up by aunts because his mother had apparently died in childbirth too and his own father was unable to cope with caring for a child. However, it turns out he was actually illegitimate, and this was just the kind cover story he was told. His mother moved away from the area and later did marry but died in her 40s from cancer. It is not clear whether she kept in touch with her sisters and son, but possibly she was disowned. His father was seemingly unaware of his son and is known to have lived a life regretting that he had no children (he later married but the couple remained childless).

My grandmother had a large family, being one of 12 children, but was scarred by the loss of brothers in Somme trenches and later her little girl.

These are common tragedies to family historians, but it seems to me that they reflect down the generations. The thoughtlessness and hardness of lives lived in poverty and grief affect the fortunes of unborn children. Looking at my grandparents, only one of them had anything like a reasonable family life and that was one of constant struggle, fear of bailiffs and desperate projects to earn enough to feed the children. My grandmother made jam and sold it to earn a little extra money because her husband’s wage was low. She told me when I was little and had to stand on a chair to help stir the fruit as it bubbled on the cooker, that she used to sell her jam. I was very proud to think she made such good jam. Now I am proud that she was so resourceful.

The other day I found some new Poor Law Removal records for a previous generation and it turns out that ancestor Daniel abandoned his wife Charlotte and their surviving children in the 1850s. They were back together for the 1861 census, but under what duress I dread to think. In 1855 when Charlotte was forced to apply for parish relief at the workhouse she was living in Digby Walk, as described below in a report from 1848:

 DIGBY WALK, GLOBE ROAD, 19.- In fit character with the distressing and degrading scene last visited, is this alley, which is in a state of the most beastly dirt. More than half of this horrid alley is covered with a stagnant pool of most offensive and filthy slime, and mud, in some places, to the depth of a foot. Some of the houses, which abut on it, are unfinished, but the yards of the older houses present a character little dissimilar to the stagnant gutter, or ditch itself. The refuse from a pig-stye drains into this gutter, and adds pungency to its offensiveness. This place is private property, and the landlord of the new houses has built a cesspool, into which to drain his houses, but he will not permit the other houses in the alley to drain into this cesspool, unless the parish pay to him 1l., a sum which it will not pay. Verily, one case of typhus would cost much more than the small sum asked to keep this place clean.

http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications/sanitary-1.htm

I don’t know why they ended up in this situation. Daniel had a good trade so perhaps he was going through a rough patch, or else he was a gambler or drunkard or promiscuous or violent. Perhaps she left him or maybe they agreed mutually it was for the best. Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing for their fragile family. Nevertheless, such experiences would have been traumatic for the children, one of whom was my great-great-grandmother. She also married a bit of a waster, and her own daughter, my great-grandmother was orphaned and in a workhouse at the age of 11.

How can families live joyful, loving, peace-fulfilling lives with these scars and tragedies? We are losing the generation that was broken by the trenches of France, and whose silence about those experiences is understandable but also permits the perpetuation of the old lie, as Wilfred Owen calls it, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

My father was in Germany in 1945 and 1946 but didn’t talk much about it either except for brief glimpses of camaraderie in the face of despair, and the discovery that some Germans at least were good people who were betrayed. This was not a popular opinion to hold at that time but he was a kind man and only judged people by their actions. He fell in love with a German girl but had to leave her because his mother would not accept her (not surprising but a little disappointing, I’ll admit). He did his duty then and continued for the rest of his life to do so.

What I have found is that for every generation where I uncover some sad or disagreeable story, there is inevitably a reason (although rarely an excuse) to explain the behaviour. This is how we perpetrate the errors of our forebears and continue to suffer.

Despite all this I have some hope. Darkness cannot abide with light; truth told leaves nowhere for lies to hide. With honesty comes the possibility of forgiveness and a fresh start.

I wish I had recognised this sooner, and avoided mistakes in my own parenting; but I did recognise some patterns that I did not want to repeat and I hope I managed to avoid them or at least reduce the strength of them. Worrying about money is one feature of my family. The only time my dad lost his temper with me was when I dropped a bottle of milk. “Do you how much milk costs?” he shouted. So although I worry about money and although we had to be frugal when the Offsrpingses were smaller, I don’t think I have ever shouted at them for such childish mistakes. I have shouted. Just not for that.

Let’s sit down with Philip Larkin for a moment, because that’s a very good place to sit. His conclusion is not for me but he sums up the tragedy of inherited scars.

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178055

Very few people are actually evil although they may choose to commit evil acts. Something has shaped them. Be glad, and even humbled, if it has not shaped you too. We can make peace if we want to. Recognising the roots of fear and sadness and pain is the first step to moving past those things to a better place. It is not easy. It is merely possible.

May you rise above your suffering and choose peace and love. I will do my best to keep up with you and we will try to make a better, more peaceful, world, here and now and every day.

The light in me salutes the light in you

Namaste

Other posts this month include:

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/02/03/monthly-peace-challenge-we-are-family/

http://appletonavenue.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/bad-dreams/

http://brainsweets1.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/dearest-daughter/

About a bird

The past couple of nights as I have lain awake listening to the Mouse Clog-Dancing Club in the loft, I have wished for birdsong. In the summer I am woken up, or joined if already awake, by birds just as the sky begins to lighten. This can be very early indeed, but is at least pleasant to listen to. Unless it’s the wood pigeons. They get old very fast.

It’s been a birdy week. Yesterday a friend said she was planning to start keeping chickens. She had a bit of a glint in her eye which seems to afflict those who turn to this hobby. There are people at work who evangelise the benefits of henliness, and keep rescue chickens in order to avoid having to do the gardening. (There’s no point if demented birds are pecking up everything in sight.) They show me pictures on their phones of the feathered ladies. The conversation may run along these lines…

“We lost Bianca last week. She’d been in a moult and very quiet, then she died.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Here’s a picture of her. Wasn’t she lovely?”

“Mmm.”

“Poor Beryl misses her terribly so we went to find a new friend for her on Saturday.”

“Uh-huh.”

“But we couldn’t choose, they were all so lovely; so now we have Gladys, Candy and Cherry as well! Isn’t it great? Look, here are some pictures of them settling in!”

“Crikey, is that the time?…”

I don’t understand why so many of the birds get either granny or hooker names, but there you go. They are bedraggled creatures, being rescue chickens, and don’t last long as a result. So the conversation gets repeated quite frequently. The inventor of camera-phones has much to account for. Occasionally people make comments about how you can get knitted jumpers for battery hens that have lost their feathers, and look at me eagerly. I tend to make my excuses. If I gave in to that kind of pressure I’d have to give up the day job.

Regardless of their culinary potential, for eggs or flesh, birds are undoubtedly insane. All birds are. Look into the eyes of a bird and you see a demented dinosaur in feathers, and furious at what it has become. It senses its raptor ancestry deep within its soul, and is demeaned by its feeble modern incarnation. Just as dogs dream of chasing rabbits, sparrows dream of hunting their prey and rending them limb from limb. What they do to insects is unspeakable.

Naturally, birds make excellent pets for small children.

When I was very little my first pet was a goldfish, and later my father became an enthusiast for fish in general. We moved to catfish and then tropical fish. I taught mine to come up to feed when I rang a bell, which was fun. My catfish would bring its head out of the water to take the flake of food from my fingers, and had about as much personality as you can fit into a such a creature. We called him Layabout, because that is what he did best, and he died of whisky poisoning. But that’s another story.

Then we got a budgie. I remember my dad announcing it one evening, as I was eating a slice of Weetabix with butter and jam. Funny how odd details stick. A friend of my dad’s needed a home for a bird that he had in his aviary. For some reason all the other birds kept attacking him, and as a result he had no feathers on the back of his head. With startling clarity of thought, he was named Baldy. So up we jumped and cycled to the man’s house and met Baldy. I brought him home on my bicycle in a little box and I talked to him all the way so he wouldn’t be scared (it didn’t work, but I tried). The next day dad came home with books on how to look after a budgerigar, and we read them together, although I didn’t understand all the words, especially the Latin.

Baldy was a clever little thing, and soon worked out how to unhook the door to his cage. We had to close it up with a bulldog clip if we needed him to stay inside (if the windows were open for example). He learned a few phrases and chatted away to himself. I was horrified when my cousin, who looked after him for a couple of weeks while we were away, taught him to say “Here puss, puss, puss.” While our neighbour’s cat was no Sylvester, it was still a bloodthirsty budgie-killing machine.

I loved that bird as children do. My mother said she knew when I was due home from school because he started chirping madly a couple of minutes before I came in the door. He would sit on my head and slide down my hair, which was long, until he got to my shoulder. Then he would nibble my ear and chirrup at me. He would do this even after, just as a random example, he had walked through my mashed potatoes and gravy, then dried his feet in the bowl of sugar. The scamp.

One day I had to go to the optician for a check up and new glasses (always new glasses), and my mother told me as we came out of the shop into the street that she had found him dead in the cage. I have to say in retrospect it wasn’t the best place to break the news. Dad had buried him in the garden in a small box at lunchtime and left a little marker so I could see where he was under the honeysuckle.

We got another bird after that but she was not too bright and just squawked. She never learned to come and sit on a finger, and panicked if we let her out of the cage so she hurt herself flying into things. After Baldy I really didn’t take to her anyway, poor thing. She was a classic rebound.

One of the local gardening centres nearby sells canaries and budgies; lots of people keep them around here, mostly outside which is incredible given how cold it can be. I always go over and chirrup at them a bit, but, as I said, they are all insane. They chirp back sometimes, but it doesn’t mean anything,

First love always leaves a mark and it’s hard to measure up.

Care to tell me about your first pets? Do you remember them still?

Namaste